Lessons Learned in a Rough (#*$!) Year

Focused up before the 2017 25k Champs
  1. You CAN run through a stress fracture. It’s just highly recommended you don’t.
  2. Not running sucks.
  3. Denial helps no one, especially YOU.
  4. Better to take the time off early than spend 6 months in pain (and running like crap).
  5. COMMUNICATE with your coach. Your coach can’t feel what you’re feeling, so you need to be honest. Then at least you can make the best decisions possible as a team.
  6. Seek support from the people important to you. Your loved ones might not understand what you’re going through, but don’t let yourself sink into misery alone.
  7. Taking a break CAN be good for you. You just have to accept it (which is hard).
  8. Eventually you will get better. It just feels like forever.
  9. Look for inspiration. Others deal with this. You’re not alone.

First of all, EVERYONE GETS INJURED AT SOME POINT. I’m not special. But when I was on the couch this summer wishing I was competing, I drew a lot of hope reading about others’ experiences coming back from injury. I hope that someone else can read this and know that while injury undoubtedly sucks, it’s not the end. You will TAKE A BREAK. Keep breathing. Cross train. Work. Try to have some fun. Challenge yourself in new ways. And eventually, you will run again.

In 14 years of running, I had never been injured. Did I deal with pain? Absolutely. Most days, running is not perfect. There’s always SOMETHING that’s sore, tight, pulling, stiff. I prided myself in being able to run through pain and yet take care of myself. My coaches had always drilled that there’s a difference between something hurting and being hurt. I still totally agree with this, as part of being a runner is handling your body and being tough, but last year I took it too far. I wasn’t hurting, I was hurt.

January: Foot starts hurting. Run on it for two weeks, gets a lot worse and moves into my shin. I finally tell AC and we decide I shouldn’t do the track workout coming up the next day.

January/February: Random days off, trying a million different things to get my shin feeling better. Taping myself together and pretending that ice and ibuprofen are the gods of healing. Run a PR in the Mile and 5k, head set on crushing the upcoming 15k.

March: Withdraw from the 15k. Take a few weeks off, get started again when I think my leg is getting better.

April: Limp through a horrific 5k at Mt. Sac. Decide I definitely need to take time off until my leg is better.

April, days later: Encouraged that I can just run on the Alter G until my leg heals up. Jump at the chance to keep training, eyes ahead on the 25k Champs.


Training on the Alter G. Thanks, Pro Rehab!

May: Run 25k, one of the most painful races of my life. Call to Coach AC:

Me: Well, it wasn’t great. But I have to start somewhere.

AC: Is this a start to a season or an end?

Me: *pissed off* hang up, determined to prove him wrong. Stand up, realize I can hardly walk, much less cool down, even less continue training/racing.

Finally shell out the money for an MRI, definite stress fracture. Equal amounts anger and relief.


Attempting to bike with a boot. Upped my balance game, big time.

June-July: Took a real and much needed break. Biked a lot, sweated a lot, watched a lot of bad movies. Challenged myself to max out on push-ups (136) and pull-ups (19). Looking back, I don’t know how I ran on an injury that long. There were runs that I stopped running and started crying, but I was convinced I could get my leg to heal and keep competing. I wanted to be healthy so badly (and was in total denial that I had my first real injury) that I ended up making things way worse than they needed to be.

July: First non-running related trip with Daryl. Like, EVER. We went to Duluth for a few days, hiked, ate good food, drank good lattes, and enjoyed doing whatever the hell we wanted. This is my favorite memory from being injured.


August: Start of training, which began with 10x1min jog, 1min walk. I spent WEEKS of walk/jogging, which I at first thought was ridiculous (I’m in shape, duh) but I quickly learned that running is HARD and even though I was cross-training daily, my body needed a gradual return to running.

September-December: Basically racing HELL.

Expectations: Unreasonably high.

Workouts: Crushing.

Start of race: PR pace.

Mid-race: Panic.

Late-race: Death.

Post-race: Sad.

Turns out running yourself into the ground isn’t the most effective way to get back into racing. Eventually, I realized (more like AC pounded into my head) that I needed to adjust my goals. I was setting my sights too high and always comparing myself to my peak fitness. I wanted to be where I wasn’t, but I had no way to get there.

After a terrible race at Club XC, I sat in a bathtub for three hours and stared at the wall. It wasn’t just one bad race; it was a year of feeling like garbage crushing the life out of me. I cried. I called my mom. I talked to Andrew, who is one of the best encouragers in times like these because he knows from personal experience that nothing really makes you feel better about a bad race. He knew that I wasn’t in a spot to feel any better, but we were able to have a good conversation about how to move forward. One thing I remember very clearly was him telling me that if I kept doing the same thing I would NEVER get myself out of this. From then on, I was determined to accept where I was at, train at my current race fitness, and make a REACHABLE goal. This was really hard for me, but I’m convinced that mindset change and willingness to adjust helped me dig my way out of a very dark hole. I sat in silence for another 30min, bought myself a giant beer, a bag of chips and salsa, and hit RESET.

My next race was Houston Half. My original dreams of my first half marathon were of running much faster than I did, achieving the Olympic Qualifying Standard, shocking the world, etc., but that day I felt better than I had in a whole year. 1:14:09 was not outwardly impressive in a race that was won in 1:06:39 and included American Record Holder (1:07:25), Molly Huddle (freaking AMAZING), but 20th place and feeling strong that day was a victory for me.


Houston Half Marathon: 1:14:09

I like to think that injury DID teach me to have a better life balance (even though at the time I was an emotional wreck), and I know that there are other things in my life that bring me fulfillment besides just running. I’m still not satisfied with where I’m at, but I’m stacking healthy weeks that have turned into healthy months and trusting that eventually the work will show itself in a race. This has been a positive start to 2018, and my goal is to keep looking forward.

[Read my 2018 Race Recaps HERE if you want to check out how things are going!]


Food for Thought #1: Fueling for a Big Work Day: Gingersnap Oatmeal + Wild Rice Frittata + Raspberry Mint Rice Cakes

Of course, running is the #1 most important aspect of being a runner, but fueling properly is right up there! If you read my first post, you already know that my high-school diet consisted of mostly Red Bull and Skittles. When I started cooking (around my sophomore year of college) I was shocked at how much better I felt. I had more energy not only while running, but throughout the day. As I’ve gained experienced,  I’ve continued to become more interested in how food affects the body, plus I just really enjoy cooking and baking new things! I’m no chef or scientist, but I am a runner who loves food! SO. Every other weekend I plan to post something that I typically eat in my day-to-day diet, or I’ll try a new recipe and share how it went!

On Friday I had a big workout in the evening (6x1mile) so I tried to treat the day like race day in preparation. I never want to go into a workout (especially a long one) under-fueled, but I also have had a notoriously sketchy stomach (for real… I’ve thrown up during more hard workouts than not). I’ve kind of learned what works well for me, so I treat a big work day with respect in terms of what I use to fuel my body. That being said, eating doesn’t have to be boring. This is what I ate to fuel for my Friday workout!

Breakfast: (before work)

Gingersnap Oatmeal + 1 Cup Pour Over Heart Coffee from Young Blood ❤


1 Cup Oats

1 Tablespoon Blackstrap Molasses

1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup

1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds

1/4 Teaspoon Ginger

1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon


I always start my day with some good carbs before I run or go to work! Runners need carbs for fuel, and I know that oatmeal sits well in my stomach for any type of workout. I like to switch up what I put in my oats (always try to add some additional nutrients in there), and I just came up with this recipe a few weeks ago! I love gingersnap oatmeal cookies, and this is even better because it’s basically like eating the cookie batter. BONUS: Blackstrap Molasses is supa high in iron, an essential mineral ESPECIALLY for female runners. Whatever you choose to eat, EAT BREAKFAST, PLZ. You don’t want to start your day off by zapping yourself of energy.

Speaking of energy, I NEVER go a morning without coffee, but I’ve tried to cut back on my caffeine intake within reason (I’m semi-obsessed and was WAY overdoing it, especially after I bought an espresso machine). Buying different varieties of coffee and making a french press or pour over has helped limit me to enjoying just ONE quality cup in the morning.

Lunch: 3 hours before workout start

Wild Rice Frittata


I’m not that fancy… Frittata basically means scrambled eggs with a bunch of stuff in it. My mama gave me a huge bag of wild rice (hand harvested from White Earth Reservation where she works!) that I’ve been using in all kinds of meals lately, so I decided to mix it in with my eggs. SO GOOD. The texture was awesome, and it added carbs that I would’ve otherwise gotten with more oatmeal or toast. I topped mine with avocado (the one I had was not ripe enough to smash but I REALLY wanted avocado, so I threw it in a food processor with sea salt and pepper. Good enough for me!)


2 eggs, beaten

Sea salt and black pepper, whatever you’re feeling

1 cup steamed wild rice

1 smashed avocado


If I’m working out in the morning, I ALWAYS stick to just toast or oatmeal with simple add-ins. Since I had more time today and wasn’t working out until late, I wanted to get some good protein and a real meal in so I didn’t get to the track feeling empty.

Snack: 1.5 hours before workout

Dave’s Killer Bread with Almond butter

4 shots espresso (from Counter Culture Coffee in Seattle… the last I had left! #sadday)



Simple carbs with a little protein/fat to keep me feeling full. ESPRESSO IS A MUST FOR ME. I always have 4 shots of espresso before a big workout or race to get psyched up. Figuring out timing is important… you don’t want to down too much caffeine too early before your workout/race, but you also don’t want to drink a bunch of liquid acid right before starting and end up feeling sick. Test these things out in workouts so you know what you should do for race day when it matters most!

Post-workout snack: Within 15 minutes of cool-down.

Raspberry Mint Rice Cakes

I stole this recipe from Skratch Labs Portables. I adjusted some ingredients because I’m not a strict recipe follower and I tend to throw together whatever I have on-hand, but they turned out awesome! P.S. I used Jasmine rice because I didn’t have sticky rice, so I wasn’t sure it would work. I just made sure to use a little extra water and let mine sit covered for 10 minutes after steaming, and it was plenty sticky enough to hold the bars together.



2 Cups Jasmine Rice (steam with 3 cups water)

Mint (I didn’t have fresh on hand, so I just used 1 tablespoon dried)

1/3 Cup Raw Cane Sugar

1 Teaspoon Peppermint Extract (I wanted mine extra minty)

1/2 Teaspoon Ginger

1/4 Cup dried shredded coconut (added more texture and flavor)

1 Pint Raspberries

Basically you mix everything together except the raspberries. Press half of it into a pan, throw the raspberries on top, squish the rest of the stuff on top of that (so it’s like a raspberry rice sandwich), and give it a few minutes to set. I cut mine into 9 squares and individually wrapped them so they’re an easy grab-n-go snack!


I was pumped to try these portable rice bars, and the verdict is: THEY RULE. Can’t wait to try more of them out. Keep in mind, the TIMING of a recovery snack is crucial. Get a snack within 30 minutes of your workout to speed up recovery.

[You might’ve noticed my day was pretty carb-heavy… I keep things fairly simple before running so I don’t have to deal with an upset stomach, but in the evening I load up on my veggies and protein! A giant steak and charred Brussels sprouts is one of my fave post-race dinners.]

I was pumped about all three of these recipes, and I DIDN’T PUKE IN MY WORKOUT. Always a plus. If you test any of them out, message me if you have questions (Contact Me), or I’d love to see your final result!

Happy fueling, happy running!


I felt good. Then I felt bad. Then it didn’t matter anymore.

TRUTH BE TOLD, I don’t exactly know what my “format” for this blog will be yet. I hope to give you an honest look at what my life is like, what running has done and continues to do for me, and also provide relevant information such as training tips, recipes, etc. I’ll be real, though, some of this might be more therapeutic for me to write than it is riveting for you to read. That being said, if you ever have any questions or suggestions for topics, click Contact Me and send me a message!


I’m writing this as I shove oatmeal into my face and down some coffee before heading outside (FINALLY) for a 17 miler. As long as I don’t implode in the next two hours, this long run will cap off the highest mileage week of my life and first time running 90 (only a few miles over my biggest week ever, but I’ll take any victory I can get!)
*Update: I did make it through, despite the snow dump that is Fargo rn.

One thing I’ve learned in running (and am continually learning to manage) is that there are ebbs and flows in each block of training. You can’t have 100% great days. No amount of icing, stretching, foam rolling, fueling, and recovery can guarantee success. It just doesn’t work that way. This week was no different.

Monday/Tuesday: Recovery running, feeling pretty good post-race.

Wednesday: 24×200. Executed this workout the best I’ve ever done it.

Thursday: Felt like dying on both easy runs.

Friday: #feelgoodfriday in the bag!

Saturday: Big workout. Thought my life was ending. To anyone at the Wellness Center running next to me, I’m sorry if I weirded you out and I swear I didn’t have a breakdown. When treadmill workouts get rough, I start repeating “5-4-3-2-1” in my head until the rep is done. It helps me focus on my breathing and distracts me from the pain. Unfortunately these reps were miles long, I got to this point very early on, and I was absolutely breathlessly counting out loud.

Fortunately, I was forced to brush off a bad workout fast because I went straight to the Summit League Championships to watch the Bison Women and Men both nab the team titles!


One of my favorite moments (among many) of the weekend was watching Alex Bartholomay anchor the Men’s DMR on Friday. One week ago, I was in a coffee shop in Albuquerque waiting to go shakeout at the track. I was checking results for a meet at UND where some of the Bison athletes were competing, and I almost fell off my stool when I hit refresh and saw Alex PRd in the mile by NINE SECONDS. He literally ran his way not only onto the Conference Team, but onto the ROSTER. Watching Alex kick down a guy in the last lap to help NDSU win in his first collegiate track race wearing the Bison jersey AND run another PR in his split was pretty incredible (yes, that run-on sentence was necessary). Best running quote I’ve ever heard in my life? Andrew (Coach Carlson) asked Alex how he felt.

MIND BLOWN. In one post-race thought Alex perfectly epitomized running, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

I put a lot of stock into each day because I know there’s importance and purpose in all of the training, but I’m learning to let go of “this one day means everything.” If you had asked me immediately how I felt after the workout, I would’ve said, “I felt bad. Then I felt worse. And it mattered too much.” Good thing I have Alex’s wisdom to put me in my place! Sure, I wish I could crush every session. But it’s a day. I’ve had a lot of good ones. I’ll have a lot of bad ones. I’m healthy, I’m training hard for something I love, and I can’t wait to race on the roads again in two weeks. New week, come at me!

#bealion #ferdaBison

What are you doing with your life? And other unanswerable questions.


The other day I was walking into the NDSU Wellness Center for a pool workout (which I despise but will do because SOMETIMES you must do the things you hate to get back to doing the things you love) and had the passing thought, “I’m a 26 year old child.” What kind of life is this that I’m living? I don’t totally feel like I have it all “figured out” or that I’m “adulting” in the “real world” with a real handle on “health insurance and credit” or whatever. But the more time passes, I realize that most adults don’t ever really know what they’re doing. People are just super great at faking it (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself). It’s okay to be in a spot where you’re just putting your all into your passions, even if that means barely breaking even. What is life if not working hard towards something that drives you? I’m just fortunate enough to have the best friends, husband, coach, bosses, and parents who support my goals and remind me why I’m doing this whenever I start to forget.

A little bit about me before you get in too deep…

I grew up in Perham, Minnesota, land of licorice, chips, and dog food. I spent most of my childhood at the library with my hair in front of my face and spent all of my money on Skittles and Red Bull. Joining cross country was a game-changer. I was never naturally talented in any sort of sport, but for some reason the individual pursuit of running resonated with me. I learned what it was to set goals, work hard when I didn’t feel good, be a leader on a team, and persevere through setbacks. Running and I clicked.

Running led me to NDSU, where I majored in English and English Education. I was involved in a multitude of clubs, groups, and activities while competing with the cross country and track team and working two (sometimes three) jobs. I’m really good at spreading myself thin and telling myself sleep is really just “suggested.” In my last year of college, largely because of the guidance of my new coach, I trimmed some of the excess out of my life and chose to keep only what mattered most to me. This renewed focus allowed me to become an All-American in the steeplechase.

Image result for maddie van beek

You might think that’s when I decided I wanted to continue running, but it’s not. I remember running on the treadmill next to my coach in January, sweating profusely and heart pounding due to nervousness rather than the pace, because I wanted to ask him to continue coaching me after college. I finally calmed down enough to ask if he thought it would be ridiculous for me to continue running, and he was in immediate support. He made sure I knew that not many would understand what I was doing (I mean, get a “real job” already), only a handful of people would encourage me to fully devote myself to this pursuit, but if I had the passion and the drive to get better, I should do it. This was when I was a 10:15 steeplechaser, 16:47 5k girl, never close to All-American type of runner. After that conversation, I knew that I was going to keep running until I couldn’t, whatever that meant. No specific goal in mind but to find out, with focus, dedication, and a lot of hard-a$$ workouts, how good of a runner I could be. And here I am, three years later, living this life and still loving it. This is my day-to-day as I pursue becoming a better Maddie Van Beek–friend, mess-maker, wife, kitchen destroyer, lover of all things furry, and runner. Thanks for following!